Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘dragonfly

From fiery bract to fiery body

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Speaking of the most primary of all colors, our September 11th visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center produced pictures not only of a bright red fire-on-the-mountain bract but also of what I take to be a male neon skimmer dragonfly, Libellula crocipennis. This one was up high and pretty far away, so I used a telephoto zoom lens at its maximum focal length of 400mm, and even then I had to crop the image down to about a fifth of its area.


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Back on August 12th I reported that I’ve occasionally been turning to unknown people on the street and asking them out of the blue what they think about the current state of our country. My latest encounter took place yesterday, after a woman who noticed Eve taking a picture of me in front of an octopus sculpture asked if we’d like her to photograph the two of us together. I took her up on her offer, and in the process we chatted briefly. When she was about to rejoin the other woman she’d been walking with, I asked her my question. She was maybe the sixth person I’d approached that way, and like all the others, she said she thinks things in America are terrible. I asked if she could give me an example of what troubles her.

First she gave me a local answer. It involved TXDoT, the Texas Department of Transportation, which has started implementing its huge project to rebuild Interstate 35 through central Austin, one of the most congested stretches of Interstate highway in the United States. The woman felt TXDoT hadn’t conferred enough with people in neighborhoods bordering that part of Interstate 35, who might be adversely affected. (There’s a history of Interstate 35 separating white and black neighborhoods when it was built through central Austin in the 1960s.)

Then the woman said she’s happy that Biden got elected president. (You’d more often than not expect that in as liberal a place as Austin.) Turning to the pandemic, she said she believes in the COVID-19 vaccines and has been vaccinated herself but is troubled by the vaccine mandates and passports currently being pushed (so notably, of course, by President Biden). Her concern was about the federal government getting too involved with and making decisions based on people’s private medical records.

Of the half-dozen strangers I’ve asked my out-of-the-blue question to, so far every one has given answers that made me think I was dealing with a reasonable person. Maybe there’s hope for the country after all.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2021 at 4:44 AM

Widow skimmer dragonfly

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a widow skimmer dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa. To be clear, this insect doesn’t skim widows. Rather it’s a kind of dragonfly called a skimmer, and the brown color on its wings fancifully reminded someone of a widow’s dark garb. I’d have preferred a less busy background (wouldn’t you?). Sometimes we have to take what comes our way.


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Here’s an update regarding an incident I linked to in my July 15th post. Women at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles were upset one day in June when a 6’2″, 200-lb., anatomically intact man who claims to identify as a woman walked around naked in the women’s locker room. An Instagram video in which one of the women complained vigorously to a staff member at the spa went viral, and that set off weeks of protesting and counter-protesting that at times turned violent. During those weeks many activists and media outlets vilified the woman who had complained. Some sources went so far as to claim there was no evidence the incident had happened, and to suggest that the video was a transphobic hoax.

Then on September 2nd investigative reporter Andy Ngo revealed in a New York Post story that on August 30th “charges of indecent exposure were discreetly filed against a serial sex offender for the Wi Spa incident, following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.” Turns out that the anatomically intact man in question, Darren Agee Merager, had “two prior convictions [not just charges] of indecent exposure stemming from incidents in 2002 and 2003 in California.” Merager “is also facing six felony counts of indecent exposure over a separate locker room incident in December 2018. Los Angeles County prosecutors accuse Merager of indecent exposure to women and children in a changing area at a swimming pool in West Hollywood Park.” ‘Merager claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers,’ reads an internal flyer by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that was sent to law enforcement departments in southern California in late 2018.” Not only that, but Merager “also has a long criminal history in California that includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape.”

While Merager’s transgressive behavior isn’t representative of transgender people in general, it does provide evidence to justify many women’s concerns that at least some men will claim to identify as women to gain access to women’s private spaces—something that transgender activists have long and stridently insisted wouldn’t happen.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Widow skimmer dragonfly on poverty weed

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When I’d almost finished wandering the grounds of Hyde Park High School on the morning of July 30th I spotted a dragonfly. Slowly moving in on it, I managed to get close enough for this portrait with a 100mm macro lens. The subject is a widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa. Latin luctus* meant ‘sorrow, mourning, grief, affliction, distress, lamentation, especially over the loss of something dear to one,’ and it seems the large dark patches on this dragonfly’s wings fancifully reminded people of a widow in mourning. (Never mind that this widow appears to be a male.) And speaking of grief over what has been lost, look at how Tennyson ended his poem “Ulysses” with triumphant resignation:

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
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* English used to have the borrowed adjective luctual, meaning ‘related to or producing grief,’ but the word has fallen out of use. We mourn its disappearance and the chance to play off intelluctual against intellectual.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 15, 2020 at 4:27 AM

Dragonfly obelisk

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Call it a handstand if you like. Entomologists refer to this upright dragonfly pose as the obelisk posture. Online articles that I’ve read list two purposes: to regulate body temperature when in bright sunlight and, for males, to assert dominance. Notice how the amber patch on this dragonfly’s wing acted like stained glass and let sunlight transmit that color to part of the insect’s body.

I took this picture on August 7th when we stopped in Charlotte,
North Carolina, to visit a friend we hadn’t seen in a couple of decades.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2019 at 4:57 AM

Roseate skimmer

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On October 4th I photographed a dragonfly that I take to be a roseate skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea.
Why the photograph doesn’t show six legs remains a mystery.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2018 at 4:40 AM

Dragonfly atop horsetail

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Dragonfly on Horsetail Strobilus 2189

From August 26th alongside the pond behind the Central Market on North Lamar (on the same outing that recently brought you a closeup of a rain-lily), here’s a dragonfly that I take to be a male blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, clasping the strobilus of a horsetail, Equisetum spp. For a much closer look at the dragonfly’s face, click the thumbnail below. For a closer look at the dashing male (but not blue) photographer’s face, come visit me in Austin.

Dragonfly on Horsetail Strobilus 2189 Detail

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2015 at 5:12 AM

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